My day as a Moon Nazi
Date: 23.11.2011 (Wednesday)
Event: Being an extra in Iron Sky
I’ve been into science fiction since before I could read. Stories about people in space spoke to me always the loudest. Having a tiny creative side I’ve also yearned to be part of it all somehow, whether by writing short stories, gamemastering roleplayer communities in MMORPGs or leading sf clubs and editing their magazines. So when I got the chance to appear in a real, honest-to-Cthulhu science fiction epic I went for it like a mass particle into singularity.
On last week’s Monday night my Facebook feed started to repeat a post about Iron Sky wanting extras. Man, that would be so much fun! I’ve been a fan of Iron Sky even before it had a name or I knew Johanna Sinisalo would script it. A bad, lazy fan I admit, or maybe I’m just trying to avoid the spoilers, but the bottom line is I didn’t know much about plot of the movie. Just what the trailers gave away. Regardless, to have a chance to be a part of it sent all sorts or crazy signals screaming for attention in my head.
Alas, I checked the requirements. Male body, check. Between 170-175 cm tall, check. Blond, short hair, fail. Oh damn my craving for shaving! It had been worth checking it out but if they named only three requirements it was a safe bet to assume they meant those. Right? Luckily on Tuesday my pessimism got cheered down by a friend who insisted I at least asked whether a bald guy could be a Moon Nazi. And what the hey, it’s just an email, all I’m wasting is the other person’s time a minute when they have to turn me down. Turned out lacking that Aryan blond hair was no obstacle at all. Welcome aboard, mate!
That was Tuesday night. I spent some frantic time checking at what hour I should leave Turku for Helsinki (wakeup was at 5 am) and how should I navigate from train station to the studio. In the end it was actually easypeasy but I always worry about such things. Give me two points on a map and detailed directions, and if the distance between them is over ten meters I’m more than likely to get lost. However I did find the studio without any gaffes. I guess I used all my good fortunes for the rest of the year on this one.
When I arrived present were three or four other extras. I was there some fifteen minutes earlier than the official starting time so I sat down to drink coffee and chitchat with the others. I was amused to note that out of the chaps maybe one or two filled every moon nazi criteria and the numbers didn’t get any better when latecomers started pouring in. Not that the hair color actually mattered much as we found out, it was the body types that turned out to be more critical.
After a second cup someone came to herd us to get dressed and we briskly did so not wanting to make anyone wait for us. Every minute was counting! There were all sorts of gear available and I started donning whatever I could just so I wouldn’t be the last man in Nazi pants. Jacket, helmet, gloves, pants, boots, even a weapon with only slightly bent muzzle, pretty soon I had it all. Around that time it dawned on us that there was a serious shortage of everything. Not to worry tho, the situation had been realized the previous night and more gear was coming from a storage at some remote corner of Finland. Any time, now.
While we waited we got to know each other a bit more and there was an excellent breakfast being served as well . Available was fruits, bread and yogurt, not to mention coffee. That would be the theme of the day and I’d pay for it dearly a few days later. Upping the daily caffeine intake by about 500% got the body accustomed to high levels of it and eventual withdrawal symptoms were pure hell once again.
Almost two hours later than the announced time to be there the extra gear arrived and we got everyone clothed. Not as stormtroopers as planned, tho. Two guys were dressed as officers because out of the three prereqs it was only the hair color that did not prevent people from getting a jacket on.
We met with the director Timo Vuorensola who was friendly and businesslike. First he recruited two handymen to lug military stuff like crates from Varusteleka just around the corner and then once we were all properly nazified he showed us around a bit. The stage, a few shots on computer where we were going to fill in the blanks. The basic gimmick was very simple.
We’d be wearing gas masks and do stuff on stage, against a green background. Whenever the Moon Nazi National Anthem would start playing we’d face wherever it was that the Moon Führer was supposed to be and snap into the perhaps most widely recognized salute of all time. The first few were a bit awkward, I was straining the muscles and standing all rigid, but pretty soon I learned to relax and go with the flow.
That’s what we did for two or three hours. Loiter, march, carry, jog, run, guard and every now and then throw a hearty Hitlergruß. The clothes were warm by themselves, physical activity added to it and the masks made it a tad hard to breath so once in a while the director made sure that we were all ok and not passing out any time soon.
The mask itself made some things difficult. Usually I wear glasses but of course inside the mask it was impossible. Factor in the bright lights shining on us and the relative darkness of the operative table and subtler hand signs have a tendency of getting lost. For example when we were told to salute a piece of tape on a pipe I couldn‘t spot the tape but neither could I see the pipe either. So I just approximated. Since no one told us to take that shot again I guess it was accurate enough.
During the day I learned really to respect the director. I’ve been bombarded by all sorts of ideals how a work place should function, how respecting the other person’s contributions is important and all that jazz. Now I got to experience it in effect. Before each shot Timo would say “actors, please“ to let us know we should start doing whatever we were supposed to, and after each shot he thanked us. Every single time. It sounds like a minor thing but if you’re working a minor, unimportant job that any yahoo could pull off, it really feels good to know that the main man appreciates your work.
Another significant lesson which I already knew but loved to see get reinforced was how enthusiasm is contagious. If you want people to really come and help you with a project, just push as hard as you can with your own shoulders and others will flock in to help. I’m sure Timo had heard the Moon Nazi anthem gazillion times already, but a few times when the lights were right I could see him waving his hands madly to the tune of it like it was the best thing ever. Seeing him loving the movie making and going wild about it after so many months was rather uplifting. At least personally, I don’t know about the rest of the guys, but whenever we were asked if we’d do a few more shots or have a break then, we always chose to work a bit more.
After all the troopering and having a pizza we changed into Götterdämmerung officer uniforms, all of us who could since there wasn’t enough of them for us all. I was told to get out of trooper clothes and into officerwear while the mechanics were still shooting scenes so I was lucky enough to score appropriate clothes. Three down, five to go we proceeded into the bridge of a huge battlecruiser.
Once there we one by one operated huge punch card tech computers, experienced the ship taking such hits that one of us hit his head for real while falling down and looked at a tactical display with great concern. By that stage we were hulking up on endorphins and adrenaline, giving it all we had. In one scene four of us were there at the same time and were thrown on our backs in synchronicity by Götterdämmerung main guns firing. The fifth guy took an excellent photo of it.
Once our job was done the fifth guy who had been absent from shoots for the last hour got to shine. A small speaking part with actual closing up shot and all. I don’t think there was any of us who was not at least a bit jealous but such is life and I reckon there are some folks who envy us for being extras. I really want to see how that shot looks on the big screen! The guy managed to summon a bellowing roar for it in the end.
Of course which shots end up on the screen depends on the director. Maybe you’ll see my face or maybe you’ll get lucky.
And then it was over. The last scene done we retreated to change into civvies and try to shake the pavlovian reflex of siegheiling at the smallest cue. It was one of the most magnificent days for me in quite a while and I’m really thankful to all the people involved. Special thanks go to our two clothing ladies who assisted us throughout the entire day fetching coffee and water whenever needed just so that we’d be available immediately if the director needed us.
Special Extras Janne, Jussi, Jukka, Kalle, Roy, Tommi and Viljami, see you at the grand opening. Let us toast to the working grunts of space national socialism and enjoy the spectacle of our, as I deeply suspect, imminent defeat. We did well.